Saturday, September 03, 2022

The Thing Itself


Friday, September 02, 2022

Brief Review: Pupa, by J.O. Morgan

 'Have you ever heard of insect politics? Neither have I.' The Fly (dir David Cronenberg).

The first novel by poet J.O. Morgan, Pupa is set in an alternate world predicated on a single what if? -- what if human reproduction resembled that of insects, with larval forms hatching from eggs, and changing, via pupae, into the adult form? Sal is a larval who tells himself he is content with his lot. He's an unambitious office drone with a necessarily unrequited friendship with another larval, Megan, and has no intention of willing the potentially fatal transformation to adulthood. As he tells Megan, 'You can't know if you'll like how you'll turn out.' But by a single uncharacteristic act, he precipates Megan's decision to change, and puts his own assumptions to the test.

Morgan allows the differences between Sal's world and ours to unfold at an unhurried pace that eschews infodumps and exposition for glimpses of complexities and consequences that Sal, like other larvals, often doesn't quite understand. The prose is unadorned yet precise, accentuating the impact of pivotal moments of body horror; the story turns on individual decisions and actions without overplaying the considerable metaphorical power of its central conceit. Cool, restrained, quietly affecting, it's an impressive novelistic debut.

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